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Will Fox’s “Gang Related” Promote Or Break Latino Stereotypes?

05.6.2014 | By |

Ramon Rodriguez is coming hot off his latest film “Need For Speed” and jumping straight into his next crime-filled actioner, which might even stirrup drama outside of the little screen.

Premiere Of Fox's "Gang Related" - ArrivalsOn Fox’s new summer series “Gang Related,” Rodriguez plays Ryan Lopez, a loyal member of his family’s gang Los Angelicos – one of the most prominent in the city – who is sent to join the LAPD to rise through the ranks and become an informant. But as he starts to lead this double life and create an unexpected bond with his police family, his two worlds collide and he is left with a life-changing decision to make. Which side will he choose?

In a behind-the-scenes look, the Puerto Rican actor explains “Gang Related” is thought provoking.  “It’s got the word ‘Gang’ in the title and people are automatically probably gonna think, ‘Oh, this is just a gang show,’” he said. “But the interesting thing is that it’s actually about family, on both ends — on the cop side and on the gang side.” The New York native also adds that the show adds commotion through conflicting images. “Some of the heroes in the show would do things that might not look right and some of the villains might do things that look … justified and that’s where the show constantly lives, in the grey area,” he said.

This is certainly an interesting series that many are bound to keep a close watch on for varying reasons. The first is of course Latino stereotypes.

As a bicultural and bilingual entertainment reporter I have noticed a clear increase in shows both in English and Spanish that deal with the subject matter of Latino gangs and drug cartels. Although, I am not the biggest fan of the topic, from the preview it seems that “Gang Related” manages to reach past the notion of gangs – merely using the subject matter as a starting point – and explores in depth other ideas that also hit close to home for Latinos like family and loyalty. Furthermore – and what I’m most intrigued to see – is if the series can turn the Latino gangster stereotype on its head by developing Lopez into a heroic figure throughout the series.

Another interesting detail is that Cliff Curtis who plays Javier Acosta, the patriarch of the Acosta family and head of Los Angelicos, is not Latino, but of New Zealand Maori descent. A fact that may even give rise to a whole different discussion: Is it okay for a non-Latino play a Latino character?


“As long as I’m working, I’m going to give [the role] to the best actor and everyone on this stage were the best for the role,” Chris Morgan, writer and executive producer for “Gang Related,” said at Fox’s Television Critics Association winter previews for the show.  “For Cliff’s part, we looked at a lot of Latino actors and cast some of them on different roles. Ultimately knowing that Javier next to Ramon is the anchor of this family, we needed a force of nature and he was, in our humble opinion, the person we felt would be the best.”

I definitely agree with Morgan, and I hope that in the future this is something that applies to all actors which means that Latinos will have the opportunity to play a variety of roles that go beyond ethnicity and stereotypes.

Undoubtedly, this is a show that will give us plenty to talk about this summer. For this project Rodriguez and Curtis are joined by: RZA, Rey Gallegos, Jay Hernandez, Sung Kang, Inbar Lavi, Terry O’Quinn and Shantel VanSanten. The action and drama are set to premier this May 22, at 9/8c on Fox.

What did you think of the sneak peek of “Gang Related” and the questions brought up? Will you be tuning in? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Dee

    So am I supposed to believe there aren’t enough Spanish speaking actors that could fill these roles? Why not hire actors that speak Spanish and overlook that they might have an accent when speaking English? Wouldn’t that be more true to the story line anyway? It’s really off putting to see the way Spanish is butchered not just in how it’s spoken but also in the translations. Fox can and should do better.

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